For most people, I’d be willing to bet that the past year or so has changed their general relationship with expectations or assumptions. I know that for myself, this switch has been major, especially as it applies to my time as an FVM. I had planned on a year of service for at least half of my time in college. Though I didn’t quite have an equivalent experience to know exactly what it would be like, I had some overall assumptions that probably would have been sound had it been any other year. As it happened, however, COVID-19 arrived into our lives and left no stone unturned.

Now, instead of explaining to confused relatives why I would ever want to do a year of service, I had to explain why I would ever want to do a year of service during a pandemic. In some ways, I honestly was a little nervous. Doing some very public, hands-on work nearly every day, when the prevailing advice was to stay home as much as possible, did make me concerned for the safety of others and myself. Ultimately, not only was I entering this new life situation, I would do so in a pandemic.

Despite a great amount of uncertainty surrounding the coming year, I still wanted to do my year of service. Through the spring and into the summer, I saw the effects COVID-19 had on millions of Americans. The pandemic not only bought illness and physical suffering but also left thousands more dealing with hunger and financial distress. Alongside them were just as many people coming together to do what they could to ease the consequences of the pandemic. To me, serving at a soup kitchen during such a time became even more urgent and relevant. Homelessness and income inequality are issues that have only gotten worse in the United States, but they haven’t always received the appropriate attention. Over time, the pandemic has only served to reveal how inadequately we’ve addressed such conditions.

COVID-19 has certainly changed the way our service looks and how it is done, which can feel challenging at times.  We don’t always get to spend the amount of time with guests that we wish we could. However, I think that simply invites us to find and nurture community in other ways. Whether that’s in sprucing up the Yard of the Inn for the enjoyment of guests or cherishing the relationships built between other Inn staff members, I’ve found that the pandemic has me appreciating things in different ways.

In my spiritual life, I’ve learned to be more trusting. When even thinking a few days ahead became unreliable, it only made the looming uncertainty more distressing. Nowadays, I find it to be a relief in some ways— it is not worth my time to worry about something I cannot control. When the smallest things now require leaps of faith, I’ve found that this radical acceptance has encouraged me to enjoy the present more, appreciating those around me and the moments I share with them. I take comfort in knowing that my days remain with God.

Deaynna Zkoskulitz, FVM Philadelphia 2020-2021